Niigata: Youths Perform Stick-Fighting at Shrine Festival near Mt. Myoko

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A pair of local youths perform traditional stick fighting for the fire festival at Sekiyama Shrine in Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, on July 15.

MYOKO, Niigata — A stick-fighting performance was held July 15 at Sekiyama Shrine in Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, to mark the start of the Sekiyama Fire Festival. The festival, which has a long history, conveys a local faith that reveres Mt. Myoko.

It is believed that yamabushi mountain hermits began learning stick fighting in the Sengoku period (late 15th century to late 16th century). The yamabushi who practiced on Mt. Myoko acquired martial arts to protect the shrine from warring forces.

On the first day of the festival, four local youths dressed up as yamabushi monks in jinbaori, traditional coats for warriors.

They formed pairs and demonstrated performances with such weapons as wooden sticks that are 6 shaku long (about 180 centimeters), naginata long-handled swords and Japanese swords.

Their performances drew repeated applause.

Six boys and girls who are fourth-grade students at a local elementary school also performed.

On July 16, a mikoshi portable shrine was paraded through the city.